The TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady has died at the age of 67, his partner Andre Portasio has said.
O’Grady, also known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, died “unexpectedly but peacefully” on Tuesday evening, a statement by his representative said.
“It is with great sadness that I inform you that Paul has passed away unexpectedly but peacefully yesterday evening,” Portasio said in his statement.
“We ask, at this difficult time, that whilst you celebrate his life you also respect our privacy as we come to terms with this loss. He will be greatly missed by his loved ones, friends, family, animals and all those who enjoyed his humour, wit and compassion.
“I know that he would want me to thank you for all the love you have shown him over the years.”
Born in Tranmere, Cheshire in 1955, O’Grady moved to London in his twenties. By 1978, he was developing his drag act Lily Savage in gay clubs, basing the flash, loud-mouthed character on various of his female relatives. In 1992, when he was nominated for the Perrier award, the UK’s most prestigious comedy prize, O’Grady came to mainstream attention and began appearing on radio and television as himself.
During his career, he hosted The Paul O’Grady Show, Blankety Blank, celebrity gameshow Paul O’Grady’s Saturday Night Line Up and the reboot of Blind Date, taking over the reins from the show’s long-running presenter and his close friend Cilla Black, who died in 2015.
A well-known animal lover, he also presented the award-winning show For The Love Of Dogs. Last year he was joined by the queen consort in a special one-off episode of For The Love Of Dogs to mark 160 years of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, an organisation for which he was an ambassador.
In August last year, he presented his final BBC Radio 2 show, having hosted the Sunday afternoon programme for nearly 14 years.
On Wednesday morning, LGBTQ+ rights campaigner Peter Tatchell remembered O’Grady as not “just a brilliant comedian and broadcast personality but a much admired campaigner for LGBT+ equality and animal rights”, and patron of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“Paul was one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. Everyone whose lives he touched will miss him greatly, as will those who enjoyed his wit and admired his compassion,” he said.